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Weekly Word

Entries in Foundation (2)

Wednesday
Mar052014

A Good Disciple Builds On The Rock

After Jesus had taught His disciples to love their enemies and to be merciful in their judgments, He then challenged them to build their lives upon His words.  In Luke 6 it is clear that this is no call to try to look like God, but rather to change and become like Him within.  It is the nature of God that leads Him to the kindness of giving room for repentance.  Thus the problem of “goodness and evil” lies in the very natures of men.

In Luke 6:43 and following Jesus points us to the reality that good works can only come from a good nature and He does this with the picture of trees in verses 43 to 45.

The Fruit Of A Tree

Jesus uses an illustration from nature to bring home his point about man’s sinful nature.  The Spirit of this Age promotes the idea that men are basically good in their natures and that it is bad influences from society (i.e. religion, superstition, ignorance) that cause evil.  People are basically good.  Of course this idea doesn’t even pass the smell test of our everyday experience.  But, we have a powerful desire for this to be true.  Yet, it begs the question.  If man if only made evil by society then how did society become evil?  Isn’t it made of “good” men?  Clearly there is some slight-of-hand going on with the definitions of good and evil here.  People who are basically good could only build societies that are basically good.  Something is missing.  The Bible would agree that mankind was originally created with a good nature.  But, man also has the power to choose evil.  Through choice man has twisted and perverted his original nature.  Man is bent towards sin (other than God).

Thus Jesus points out that a tree produces fruit after its own kind, or from its underlying nature.  God has designed the creation in such a way that what is seen has a direct connection to that which cannot be seen within it.  In the case of a tree, it is its underlying DNA.  However, Jesus is speaking spiritually here.

Now over time men have learned to distinguish those trees and the fruit that comes from them.  In this we see that some fruit looks good to the eye, but is bad for the body.  On the other hand, some fruit doesn’t look good, but is.  In this analogy the “bad” tree is the one that cannot be eaten by man without ill consequences.  This is a picture of bad teachers and false prophets.  If you eat of their teaching you will be poisoned.  No matter how good their fruit looks there will be death in it.  Spiritually we need to be good at identifying bad and good trees.  There are many trees across this nation offering nothing good and people are clamoring to eat it up.  Only Jesus is the Good Tree that we can trust to give us life.  He is the only Tree of Life.  Do not listen to those teachers who rail against those who “judge them.”  It is the foolish man who eats fruit first before asking if it is poisonous.  Jesus warned us against the teaching of these religious charlatans.  Jesus is the good tree.

Now when Jesus points out that good fruit can only come from a good tree it would be easy to think he is telling his disciples that they are good trees.  Here we have the fact that only a tree with a good nature can give good fruit.  In Luke 18:18-22, a rich young man came to Jesus seeking to know what he needed to do to be saved.  However, he greets Jesus as “Good Teacher.”  Now the man was not wrong to call Jesus “good teacher.”  However, he didn’t understand the importance of what he was saying.  So, Jesus pulls him up short in order to make him think about what he was saying.  “No one is good, but One, that is, God.”  Here Jesus disqualifies all men as a source of good fruit.  The rich young man wanted answers, but the only reason Jesus could help him was because Jesus was the Son of God.  To hear the words of Jesus are to hear the very words of the Father himself.  That is why Jesus ends this discussion by telling the man to sell all his goods and follow Him.  Yes, the rich man lacked treasure in heaven.  But more importantly he lacked The Treasure of Heaven; Jesus himself.  Jesus is good because by nature He is God.

The good news of the Gospel is not that we have a new and improved list of good things to do that are better and simpler than the old ones.  Rather, the good news of the Gospel is that in Jesus, God is now sharing His nature with mankind.  If I am going to be a good tree that produces good fruit, then I am going to need to have my nature changed from me to Him.  God does this not by making us all gods.  Rather, He puts His Spirit within us, which makes our spirit come alive to the “good things” of God.  We still have a fallen human nature that fights against this.  We see this in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”  If I am going to truly love my enemy and be merciful then I am going to need a new nature working within me to produce such good things.  Trying to do this without inner change is not only futile, it will also become a twisted, perverted, and evil thing in the end.  Titus 1:15-16, “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.  They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”

In the name of social justice, brotherly love, helping the poor, and unity, the world has been deceived into thinking that man can be good without being transformed by Jesus.  Even more insidious is the parallel working inside the Church to deceive believers into thinking that we can transform Jesus and His Teaching without affecting the fruit it will produce.  Thus the world thinks good can come without Jesus.  The false Church comes to believe that good can come with a new and improved Jesus (read that “another Jesus”).  This is the spirit of antichrist.  Just as the Spirit of God is preparing the chaste bride to be ready for the coming of Christ, so the spirit of this age is preparing the unchaste and adulterous bride for the coming of The Antichrist.  Have you been born again?  Has the Spirit of God taken up residence within you and is the transforming nature beneath what you do?  Don’t settle for a profession alone.  But, rather, believe in your heart upon the Jesus of Scripture and what He said.  In this you will be saved and changed.

The Good Foundation

In verses 46-49, Jesus challenges the notion that people who outwardly look like they are following Him, really are.  Those who call Him “Lord” or “Good Teacher” often do so without really knowing what that means or believing it.  Jesus uses the picture of building a house for the living of a life.  Both need a good foundation upon which to build.

The word “Lord” refers to one who is master.  Thus the disciple is put in the picture as a servant.  The wise servant of Jesus is the one who lives their life by what Jesus said.  This servant will have built a life that will survive the judgment of God.  Digging down to the rock in this parable represents getting down to God’s Word.  It alone is strong and solid enough to hold up our life.  Jesus is The Solid Rock.  Though it may seem like a lot of extra work, and there are plenty of others who offer us short cuts intellectually, the wise servant is the one who digs down to the real Jesus and the real words of Jesus, rather than rely on the words of others.  Your life and the way you have lived it will be tested.  It is tested periodically throughout our life and it is ultimately tested when we stand before God at the Judgment.  Those who actually listened to Jesus will be saved.  They will not be shaken or destroyed by divine judgment.

On the other hand, the foolish servant disobeys and perishes in judgment.  Notice that the foolish servant still builds a house.  In fact the house may look like the wise servant in many ways.  But what makes it a “good” house is not what it looks like.  It is a “bad” house because of the unseen underlying realities.  In this case the foundation is not on something solid.  It is built right on the ground.  We cannot just pick and choose what things of Jesus we want to follow.  Building on the ground is not good enough.  I know we are talking about “servants” of Jesus here, but the illustration works even with unbelievers and atheists.  They have a complete disregard for God and His Son Jesus.  Therefore they build upon a foundation of their own making and wisdom.  It does not matter what it looks like, in the end it will not be good enough to withstand the judgment of God.  However, complete disregard for God’s word is not the problem in this parable of Jesus.  The problem is a person who settles for building upon all the ideas of man that have accumulated over the years on top of Jesus (The Rock).  No matter how great and wise these people may be, their ideas and teachings are mere sand, gravel, and dirt compared to the rock of the words of Jesus.  Even though they are fine sounding religious ideas and traditions that are “based” upon Jesus, they will not hold us up.  We must dig down to Jesus and the testimony of His Apostles for ourselves and build upon that alone.  Though we can take the instruction and words of other disciples to heart, we can never let them come between us and Jesus.  Doing so is a recipe for disaster and ruin throughout this life and particularly at the Day of Judgment.

Thankfully, God part of God’s mercy is that He not only gives us time to repent, embrace Jesus and build our life upon Him, but He also sends periodic storms that will reveal our lack of a proper foundation.  Periodically throughout our lives He is faithful to test us and show us where we have been building upon something other than Him. In this mercy is the joy that we can repent and turn to Christ and be saved from ruin, whether in matters of this life or our ultimate salvation.  Yet, know this.  Like the Great Flood took the ancient world down in Judgment, but only Noah and his family survived, so there is a coming judgment that will expose the lack of foundation of many.  Only the life that is truly built upon Christ will be able to withstand the torrent of His judgment.

Today there is so much redefinition and deception regarding the things of Jesus that I would be remiss if I didn’t challenge all of us to make sure that we are building on the words of Christ and not someone who is twisting His words and misrepresenting His heart.

Good Disciple audio

Tuesday
Mar052013

Peter's Prayer for Believers

Today we will finish the book of 1 Peter as we look at 1 Peter 5:10-14.  It begins with a prayer that Peter prays for them and, by extension, for us today.  Before we look at the specifics for which Peter prays, let’s look at his descriptions of the God to whom he prays.

The God To Whom Peter Prays

First Peter describes Him as the “God of all grace.”  He is the source of all the good things that have come into our life.  James 1:7 says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights in whom there is no shadow of turning.”  Even things that we may think came from other people, can be traced back to God when we ask questions such as: Who gave them the health, strength, finances etc…, to do what they did?  What moved their heart to help me?  Did they make themselves?  Good comes to us through the creation which God himself made.  Thus he is the source of all good.

He is also the God of all grace in the sense that, when we are in difficult times, He is the One to whom we should turn.  His potential supply of help and grace is inexhaustible.  He has “all” the grace we need.

Second, God has called us into His glory by Jesus.  Just as he told us, Jesus is the door by which we are invited to participate and enjoy the glory of God.  This God who has made a way for you to have a part in His glory is the God Peter addresses.  Notice that Peter qualifies this with the statement, “after you have suffered a little while.”  Now my flesh really wishes Peter had left that out.  Suffering has been a big part of this letter.  Peter recognizes that in this life we have our particular lot of suffering.  Here, Peter agrees with what Paul said in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  After the sufferings of this present world, we will join God in his eternal glory.  In that moment this present suffering will seem small, light, and incomparable.  That may not make it easy now.  But it is part of the Hope that we hold.

Lastly, in verse 11, we see that God is the only One worthy of the glory and power of creation.  Any glory and power of this world has its being in Him.  Thus any glory it has reflects upon the God who made it.  Within our own lives we should live in a way that is reflective of the glory that he has.  And, if there is any praise or glory back to us from people, it really is ultimately deflected back to Him.  All glory and all Power really do exist for his purposes and are representative of Him.

Peter Prays that God Would…

He prays that God would perfect us.  The word for perfect here means to mend or fix that which is broken.  As a fisherman, Peter had “perfected” many a net so that he could use it again.  Like a ship that has gone through a storm, we may be beat up and wounded.  Perhaps, like the shipwreck that Paul went through, we may have thrown some precious cargo and tackle overboard in order to survive.  Peter prays that God would fix and mend their lives.  He prays that God would equip them with whatever needful thing they have lost and supply any new thing necessary for them to fulfill the purpose for which they have been made.  We need to cooperate with this perfecting in our lives.  Some things that are painful or difficult are the very things that God is using to mend and fix us, if we look to Him in faith and trust.

He also prays that God would establish us.  This word means to be firmly set.  It is the picture that we will not be easily knocked over or moved.  Clearly we are to be firmly set in Jesus.  So that we will not be easily swayed or knocked off of our dependence and faith in Him.

Next he prays that God will strengthen us.  This word does often refer to physical strength, but I am quite confident that Peter has an inner strength in mind here.  Thus he is asking for God to strengthen their hearts and souls.  Our hearts and minds are inundated daily by the temptations and deceits of our own sinful flesh and of our enemy the devil.  Thus we will need strength in order for our faith to persevere through the individual tests and to the end of our life. 

Lastly he prays that God would settle us.  This word literally means to put a foundation under something.  Clearly, as I said earlier, this foundation is Jesus.  1 Corinthians 3:11, “No other foundation can anyone lay that that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.”  However, it is more than just a name or an identity.  God places the life, teachings, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus under us as a foundation.  He does this by giving us teachers, fellow believers, and the Holy Spirit.  As we cooperate with this process we are enabled to build upon a foundation that can never fail.  When the person and work of Jesus is the basis for everything we do then we can say that God has finished this task in our life ; )

Peter’s Closing Comments

Verses 12-14 are the closing of this letter.  Peter makes it clear that his purpose in this letter was to exhort and testify that they had received the “true grace of God.”  Much speculation had traveled throughout the empire and the apostles had to be vigilant all the time in the area of doctrine.  He encourages them that they have already received the “true” grace of God, as opposed to any new “grace of God” that someone might be shilling.  Though it might not seem like enough, we have been given the grace that God knows will not only help us, but is all we need.  We can trust his provision.  In light of a day and age that speculates on everything, we need to hear this message now more than ever.  Every year a new speculation about religious conspiracies within Christianity or even in its origin try to question whether we have been given the true grace of God.  It is true that many Christian groups have added to God’s Word.  However, in the Bible we have the eye witness testimony of men who were there and verify that the things we have recorded are true.  I won’t go into it here, but the text of the Bible is without question the most verified ancient text.  Any attempts to change its text have been easily spotted throughout history and were never global in their acceptance.  We can be confident that we have just read the actual letter that Peter wrote to believers in the first century.

Peter also exchanges greetings from the church where he is writing.  The “she” referred here is tied to the believers who are receiving the letter by the phrase “elect together.”  This clearly is a reference to the church (a feminine noun that would use a feminine pronoun) rather than a specific woman.  It is interesting that Peter appears to be in Babylon.  If it is meant literally then it would be a reference to the Babylon of the Mesopotamia.  However, many have pointed to a possible coded reference to Rome.  John appears to do this in the book of Revelation.  So it is possible.  Another reason to believe that this may be a reference to Rome is that in the book of 2 Peter 1:14, Peter mentions this first letter and that he is about to be put to death.  Since the clear testimony of history is that Peter died in Rome, it is very likely that he was in Rome which led to his martyr.  Many Protestants have rejected this because of the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching that Peter was the first Pope in Rome.  There is no evidence that Peter ever was a Bishop or Pope in Rome.  Yet, we need not be blind to the fact that Peter probably interacted with the Roman church before his execution.  These two letter appear to have been written in the period leading up to his death.

Peter’s last statement is to remind them of their duty to love one another.  He does so by referring to a customary greeting, the kiss.  The biblical injunction here is emphasizing the kind of greeting rather than the act of greeting itself.  As Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, so believers are to reject such hypocritical and deceptive techniques.  They are to truly love one another and not hide behind the mask of social customs.  Then he prays peace to those who are in Jesus.

Are you in Jesus today?  That means you have trusted in him to be the forgiver of your sins.  You have looked to his death as the price of your own sins.  You have trusted in his work on your behalf to make thing right between you and God.  Have you done this?  Don’t put it off.  God has loved you within time and throughout history.  It is revealed to you today through this letter that Peter wrote.  Your faith is not a leap of faith, but a trusting in the objective reality of the testimony of not just Peter, but also thousands who witness the coming of the Savior of the World, Jesus.

Peter's Prayer audio